Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Where Is The Safest Place To Avoid Gun Accidents? Shooting Ranges?

Those of us who fight gun violence are always pointing out the one, irrefutable truth about firearms:  guns are designed to fire with deadly force, quickly and easily.  Because of this, where guns go, gun violence follows.  The same is true of unintentional shootings  (note that I'm distinguishing between "accidents" and unintentional shootings, since the term "accident" suggests that an incident is somehow unavoidable).  Literally every day I read about unintentional shootings, often with children, but there's no shortage of these shootings involving adults, too.  Here is a sampling of them.  Most of these are by previously law-abiding citizens, some with conceal carry permits, like this guy (who just two days ago was a newly trained security guard showing off his gun to a friend.  He wound up shooting her in the head and killing her.)

To the gun guys, these daily accidents are just another cost of their "freedom."  To me, it's a disgraceful and avoidable shame.

When these unintentional shootings occur, the most common statement from pro-gun extremists is that the person who fired the gun just hadn't had sufficient training in the four rules of gun safety.  I say that's bullshit.  It's true that in most states, including here in Oregon, you don't need a moment of gun safety training to purchase a gun for your home, not a single shot fired.  But this is a lethal weapon.  Anyone with any common sense should realize it is deadly -- the reason it is purchased -- and should be treated as such at all times.  Here in Oregon you have to take a class for an hour or two, no live fire required by the state (although many programs do so anyway).  It's the same in many other states, such as Arizona (where THIS young lady wasn't even asked if she had fired a gun, much less had to do so for her conceal carry certification class).  I don't feel that a couple hours sitting at a desk or firing off a few dozen rounds at the shooting range is sufficient to render someone "safe" with their weapon, but at least they should have had someone drill the idea into their head for an hour.  Better than nothing, I guess.

Okay, so if there is any one place a person could go to avoid an accident, it would be with close supervision by an experienced firearms instructor, well-versed in teaching safety for a wide range of firearms and diverse clients of all ages, right?  Like a shooting range.  The four rules of gun safety should be prominent in everything that happens there, posted on the walls, and evident with every step in the process of picking up, loading, firing, and setting down the gun.  I've been to a few shooting ranges and shot handguns and rifles at them, from my old Boy Scout camp in the woods of Arkansas to an indoor police range here in Oregon.  They all featured the four rules in one form or another and apparently competent instructors.

So I would say that shooting ranges and firearms safety classes should be pretty foolproof for safety.  Wouldn't you agree?

Except they aren't.

(Note: Additional updated incidents will be added as they occur.  See below.

1/24/12 -- Eastlake, Ohio:  A man attempts to clear his weapon and unintentionally sends a .357 round through the stall wall, hitting his friend on the other side.  The friend dies from the wound.

1/28/12 -- Rowlett, Texas:  After numerous stray bullets hit homes over a couple years, most recently flying through a wall and nearly hitting a 5-year old boy, the town moves to shut down the shooting range.

"It's just a parent's worst nightmare," she said. "The idea of a child getting hurt or killed, especially in a house -- it shouldn't happen in a house."

Police said the bullets were from a high powered rifle that could have traveled a distance.
"It's just scary," Bowman said. "Had they been playing in here, they would have been in the path of the bullet, and who knows what would have happened."

2/7/12 -- Sitka, Alaska:  A man at a shooting range was re-holstering his weapon when it fired, killing him.

3/20/12 -- Custer, South Dakota:  Residents call for the shutting down of a shooting range after reports of bullets flying through residential neighborhoods.

"You go outside and you don't really feel safe when they're shooting. I've had two bullets, heard them ricochet up and come towards over in that area across the highway," neighbor Quinten Arp said.

"It's right next to the highway, right next to the houses and it's not a place for a gun range," Arp said.

3/10/12 -- San Antonio, TexasA court halts rifle fire at a shooting range after a nearby golfer was struck by a stray bullet.

3/23/12 -- Boise, Idaho:  25-year-old Kevin Kuhn died of a self-inflicted wound to the forehead at an indoor range run by Impact Guns in Boise.  Despite being a forehead wound, police believe it likely wasn't a suicide due to the fact that the gun was at an intermediate range and not directly against the skin when it fired.

3/26/12 -- Charleston, North Carolina:  60-year-old Benny Patterson was shooting at the range in the Trader World Gun Shot when he stopped to inspect his weapon, but he discharged it unintentionally, hitting himself in the chest and dying from the wound.

4/14/12 -- Fayetteville, North Carolina:  a man at an indoor shooting range tries to clear his gun, but it discharges, sending a round through his leg.

4/16/12 -- Texas City, Texas:  The rangemaster at a city municipal shooting range tried to unjam a handgun when it fires, sending a  round through his hand.

4/18/12 -- Paulden, Arizona:  A man who was attending a basic pistol class at the Gunsite Academy went to holster his weapon and sent a round through his leg.

4/24/12 -- Roanoke, Virginia:  A man and woman were taking a firearms safety class when he unintentionally fired his .45-caliber handgun through his hand in into his wife's leg.  The man who shot himself said the shooting was a "stupid accident."

4/26/12 -- Galveston, Indiana:  A gun store and shooting range was having a "shooting event" which featured a .308-caliber Russian-made machine gun.  Unfortunately, they also rained bullets downon the surrounding residential neighborhood, nearly hitting a mother and her 5-yearold daughter as they sat for lunch.

At first she thought someone was throwing rocks, but when she heard a popping noise she realized it was gunfire and called 911.

“I just didn’t know where to go,” Stout said. “I had to go get my phone and I thought, ‘What if they start shooting again?’ ”

Police found a bullet lodged in a wooden door frame inside the home and another bullet in the drywall upstairs. The first bullet nearly hit the mother and daughter, a police report said.

“If the round would have traveled three inches to the right, there is a high probability chance that Lori and/or her daughter could have been struck,” the report said.
(see below for additional shooting incidents added since the initial posting)

And that's just the instances I've heard of this year.  I didn't search back through last year or prior.

No wonder cities all over the country are trying to shut down shooting ranges or prevent them from being built.  Some say the issue is noise from the guns.  But let's face it: no one is comfortable with the idea of bullets whizzing around their neighborhoods.  In the words of the owner of that shooting range in Custer, South Dakota, that's being attacked for its poor safety:

" I will not and cannot guarantee that a round will never escape this premises. You just can't do it."

And that's the problem.  All it takes is one bullet with an unfortunate trajectory to kill someone.

Citizens in Chickamauga, Georgia, for instance, are objecting to the building of a shooting range there, only 400 feet from a daycare and school.

Here's a Chicago neighborhood who objected to the building of a police shooting range near them.  Using an environmental argument, they succeeded in blocking the plan.

Increasingly ostracized, it's harder all the time to find a location far enough away from civilized areas to build a shooting range.  Here's one in West Virginia that is getting opposition to build near a cemetery (in an ironic way, maybe the only suitable landmark to be near a shooting range).  And here's one in Maine which was evicted from their old location and has to settle on an old sludge pit!

So if shooting ranges with instructors aren't safe enough, then where can you possibly go without fear of being shot by some idiot who isn't mindful of his weapon?

Anywhere there isn't a gun, obviously.

More gun range shootings since posting this entry:

4/27/12 -- Gas City, Indiana:  A Muncie man unintentionally fires his SKS military-style semi-auto assault rifle at a shooting range, hitting himself twice in the abdomen.  He is expected to survive.

5/7/12 -- Onalaska, Washington:  A woman being trained in drawing and re-holstering her 9mm handgun unintentionally shot herself while re-holstering it into her concealed hoster.  The wound was non-life-threatening.

5/8/12 -- Scottsdale, Arizona:  A 52-year old man accidentally shot himself in the chest at the Scottsdale Gun Club.

5/11/12 -- Lincoln County, Idaho:  A police officer, training during an NRA officer training course, accidentally shoots himself at a gun range.

5/28/12 -- Laguna Hills, California:  32-year old Kenneth Matthew Wells wrote a suicide note, went to a shooting range, rented a gun, stepped into the shooting range, and shot himself dead with one round to the head

6/12 -- Brighton, MichiganCharles Kimball and his friend Jessce Stearn were at the Livingston Conservation and Sports Association gun range when Stearn shot Kimball in the head with a replica AK-47, killing him.  The shooting was later determined to be intentional murder.

6/15/12 -- West Palm Beach, Florida:  A patron at the Shoot Straight shooting range was unintentionally hit and wounded by a ricochet bullet.

6/21/12 -- Galeton, Colorado:  A 71-year old man, Wayne Harrison of Greeley, unintentionally fired his .357-caliber revolver while trying to holster it, while at a gun club, shooting himself in the stomach.  He was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition (related article).

6/21/12 -- Wichita, Kansas:  A law-enforcement recruit was struck by a ricochet bullet while practicing, and had minor injuries, at a firing range near Lake Afton.

6/23/12 -- Utah Lake, Utah:  A wildfire was started after a person at a shooting range shot at and hit an exploding target.  (So far there have been at least 20 wildfires started by exploding targets in Utah alone, so far this year).

7/2/12 -- Brighton Township, Michigan:  Four friends, three males aged 19 and a 16-year old female, went to a gun range to fire an AK-47.  The gun jammed, as it had in the past.  In trying to clear the jam, it discharged, hitting and killing one of the 19 year olds.

7/4/12 -- West Palm Beach, Florida:  A woman accidentally shoots her boyfriend in the ankle at Gator Guns and Archery Center. 

7/7/12 -- Green Garden Township, Illinois:  Bullets pepper a nearby home, including a round that nearly hit two teen boys inside, shot from a private home shooting range, where a party with 25-30 shooters were firing weapons under the supervision of an ex-Marine tactical firearms trainer.

7/17/12 -- Houston, Texas:  A police officer was at the Houston Police Department Academy firing range, cleaning his weapon, thinking it was unloaded.  He accidentally fired the weapon, hitting the floor. A bullet fragment wounded him above his eyebrow.  

7/19/12 -- Petaluma, California:  A man who was an award-winning marksman and lifetime shooter was shooting alone at a shooting range when he went to get his shotgun from the car.  The gun was loaded, and when he pulled it out, barrel pointed toward him, it discharged, striking him in the chest and killing him.  "He was a very, very safe person," said his wife and mother of their two children.

8/26/12 -- Scottsdale, ArizonaA man commits suicide at the Scottsdale Gun Club.  (In May, a man had accidentally shot himself at the same gun club).

9/28/12 -- Muskogee, Oklahoma:  James Woolard, 44, was doing target practice at a gun range at Camp Gruber shot himself to death in what appears to be an accident. 

10/15/12 -- Fort Myers, Florida:  Richard Arlen Kelley, 75, walked into Fowler Firearms and Gun Range for the second time, rented a gun, and spent 20 minutes shooting before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.

10/19/12 -- Gardiner, Maine:  Kennebec County Sheriff, and Iraq War veteran, Randall Liberty was kneeling at a shooting range when he was struck in the back by a .45-caliber round.  Luckily, he was wearing a tactical vest which dissipated the round, and was uninjured other than a large bruise and swelling.

10/29/12 -- Cedar Falls, Iowa:  A man was allowing his 5-year old daughter to shoot a .22 rifle at Black Hawk Park's recreational  range when the girl's 8-year old brother walked across the firing line.  She unintentionally shot him once in the head.  No charges are being filed against the gun owner.

10/30/12 -- Fullerton, California:  A police officer was undergoing monthly qualifications in the police shooting range when he unintentionally shot himself in the leg, with minor injuries.

10/30/12 -- Wyoming, Michigan:  41-year old Mark Sobie (a convicted felon who had in 2009 tried to rob a bank with a toy gun) rented a gun at the Silver Bullet Firearms shooting range and committed suicide with it, due to depression over the death of his son. Though a convicted felon, Sobie did not have to undergo a background check to rent the gun.

11/4/12 -- Ferris, Texas:  Veteran firearms trainer Sonny Puzikas decided to have one last run through a "close combat" shooting range at the Texas Defensive Shooting Academy, where, according to the founder, "allows shooters the ability to shoot the way they want, without the stringent rules imposed like most other ranges."  Unfortunately, the area wasn't clear, and Puzikas unintentionally shot an assistant shooting instructor three times, in the abdomen, hand, and bicep. Luckily he will survive.

11/7/12 -- San Antonio, Texas:  A man rented a gun at the A Place To Shoot gun range and, after firing off a number of rounds, killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot using the weapon. It was ruled a suicide after two suicide notes were found in his car.

11/13/12 -- Alamance County, North Carolina:  An Alamance County Sheriff's Deputy was in the midst of firearm certification at the Sheriff's Department shooting range when he stumbled while holstering his weapon, unintentionally shooting himself with his .40-caliber handgun.  His wound was non-life-threatening.

11/24/12 -- Cheatham County, Tennessee:  A 13-year old boy was with his family and was retrieving targets.  That's when a woman moved a number of firearms on a nearby bench, discharging a .22-caliber revolver and striking the boy in the abdomen.  Luckily the wound was not life-threatening.

11/29/12 -- Nevada, Texas:  A 5-year old boy was injured by flying glass, and narrowly missed, when a stray bullet went through his car window, shot from the neighboring Armadillo Gun Range, despite the use of dirt berms around the range.

11/30/12 -- West Columbia, South Carolina:  A 62-year old man was taking apart his gun at Shooter's Choice gun range when he unintentionally discharged it, shooting himself in the chest.  He died shortly after.

1/19/13 -- El Paso, Texas:  A woman at the Dragonman's pistol range unintentionally fired her gun while reloading.  The round hit a trash can and the ricochet wounded her on the leg.  Another woman was also slightly hurt.

1/20/13 -- Marshfield, Wisconsin:  53-year-old Stephen Sammartino at the Wood County Rifle Range was attempting to clear his gun when he unintentionally discharged it, hitting his 25-year old son in the back.  His son was flown to the hospital in critical condition.  No charges.

2/2/13 -- Glen Rose, Texas:  Famed, record-holding SEAL team sniper, gun trainer, and pro-gun spokesman Chris Kyle, was shot to death, along with another man, by a suspect who suffered from PTSD and other serious mental illness, at a shooting range at the Rough Creek Lodge.

2/5/13 -- Hatfield Township, Pennsylvania:   Sgt. Stephen Gillen, a 23-year police veteran, of the Upper Gwynedd Township Police Department was conducting annual firearms training at a police shooting range when he unintentionally fired a round into his left foot while he was removing the weapon from his holster.

2/24/13 -- Dallas, Texas:  A shooter at the DFW Gun Range stupidly decided to use tracer bullets while target shooting. Being a type of small flare, they caught the building on fire. Around 50 people had to be evacuated as the building was engulfed in flames, with multiple small explosions, in this four-alarm fire.  No charges were filed.

2/27/13 -- Dalton, Georgia:  A young girl was allowed to shoot a double-barreled shotgun at the Chestnut Mountain Shooting Range.  The kickback was too strong for the girl after she fired the gun, causing her to drop the weapon, whereupon it discharged again.  The shot hit and injured two people in their legs.  No charges were filed against the girl or whomever allowed her to shoot.

3/3/13 -- Waldorf, Maryland:  61-year-old Patrick Allen Richards of Hughesville, who was target shooting at The St. Charles Sportsman's Club, unintentionally discharged his gun while it was pointed at his upper body, possibly as part of a recoil accident.  The shot killed him.

3/22/13 -- Gaston County, North Carolina: A student at the Gastonia Police Firearms and Tactical Training Center shooting range had problems with his handgun, and while investigating it with a trainer, they discharged it, hitting a deputy from the Gaston County Sheriff's Office in the hip.